Nigel Chapman

Interviewed by Carter Selinger.

Nigel Chapman sings, plays guitar, and writes songs for the burgeoning Halifax rock group Nap Eyes. The band’s critically acclaimed 2016 album Thought Rock Fish Scale was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize, and is “brimming with passion and protest” according to Pitchfork magazine. I was introduced to Nap Eyes about two years ago, and since then I’ve thought at length about Chapman’s lyrics. The significance of the images, and ideas in Chapman’s songs seemed in accordance with my own changing perception, and open to countless interpretations. Maybe Chapman’s work as a biochemist with gene theory has influenced the “adaptability” of his lyrics—though he’s hung up the lab coat now to focus on music. He simply can’t think about one thing one way, and in an age where people with hardened beliefs seem to get the loudest microphones, this perspective is refreshing. During our conversation about alcohol and drugs, art, existence, self-doubt, science, and spirituality, I found the strength of Chapman’s ideas and beliefs comes from a place of empathy and flexibility. His beliefs bend and contort around ideas to allow opposing viewpoints, and can lead him to two seemingly valid opinions that are almost irreconcilable. This thought process can make him laugh, and say, “It’s a paradox.” He is alive to contradictions, and therefore alive to both the great struggle, and “great value of human existence.”

A few days ago, I was listening to the song, “Click Clack” after a few friends had come to visit me for the weekend, and we had spent a great deal of our time drinking together. The lyrics “Sometimes drinking I feel so happy but then / I can’t remember why / I feel sad all over again / Sometimes drinking I / don’t know my best friend for my best friend,” felt especially poignant to me because of the terrible emotional and psychological hangover I was going through. To what extent do you think alcohol (and other substances) have helped or hurt your creative process?

It was really hard to tell because sometimes I used to think drinking and smoking weed were a way I could get into a head space where I could write. I almost didn’t have the confidence in myself to believe what was happening when I was creatively inspired could be achieved without altering my consciousness chemically. It’s like when you’re learning to swim, you think you still need flotation devices, and you don’t want to test yourself without them. For a few years, I sort of assumed smoking weed and drinking would be necessary for song writing. Even though I was usually only doing that in moderation, I think using those substances revealed an inhibition, and they can help you overcome your inhibitions. It’s the idea of thinking you need a crutch even when you don’t need one, but some people do need a crutch. There is real medical value in some of these things, but there needs to be balance. I don’t think I have a final conclusion about the value, or lack of value, of these substances in my practice; sometimes they seem to relax me and be conducive to work, and other times they drain me of energy, make me paranoid, and so inhibited that I don’t work. It’s almost like they enhance things when they’re going well, and exacerbate things when they’re not going well. I think these substances are interesting things, they have a unique phenomenal value in the world, they aren’t things you want to lean into completely, or treat with reckless abandon, or without thinking about how you’re using them.
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Charlie Jane Anders

Interview by Einar Leif Nielsen

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky which was one of Time Magazine’s “Top 10 Novels” of 2016 and is nominated for a Nebula Award. She’s the organizer of the Writers With Drinks reading series in San Francisco, and a founding editor of io9, a website about science fiction, science and futurism. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction,, LightspeedTin House, ZYZZYVA, and several anthologies. Her novelette Six Months, Three Days won a Hugo award in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon awards. You can follow Charlie Jane online @charliejane or on her website

I have been following Charlie Jane’s career ever since I started reading her writing advice columns on the blog io9. The blog will always be very special to me because it introduced me to the SFF community which has influenced me greatly in my writing and in my life in general. So, I owe Charlie Jane a lot of gratitude for her work at io9. Her book All the Birds in the Sky was one of the most anticipated in 2016 in the science fiction and fantasy community and was very well received. I read it recently and loved it. Also, as part of my research for this interview, I read Six Months, Three Days which is accessible online; I definitely recommend everyone check it out. So I was excited to get a chance to interview Charlie Jane and ask her about her career as a writer.

Do you have any moment or a piece of writing that inspired you to become a writer and do you ever revisit that moment or piece to remind yourself how and why you began to write?

There are a lot of books that made me want to be a writer. But in particular, I remember that around the same time, I read Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, and those two incredible books made me feel like I really wanted to try writing speculative fiction. I felt like, even after having read a lot of SF before that, the one-two punch of those two very different approaches to the genre kicked me in the head and made me see a whole bunch of new possibilities. I knew I could never come anywhere remotely close to equalling either of those writers, but I wanted to see what I could do anyway.

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Kyung-sook Shin

Kyung-sook Shin 4_no credit line

Interviewed by PP Wong

Kyung-sook Shin’s answers were translated by Charlie Chung

Kyung-sook Shin is the bestselling author of Please Look After Mom which was published in nineteen countries and has sold over a million copies. In March 2012 Shin was awarded The Man Asian Literary Prize —beating out Haruki Murakami, Amitav Ghosh, Banana Yoshimoto, and other worthy rivals for the prestigious prize.

Shin was born in 1963 in a village near Jeongeup in Jeolla Province in southern Korea. The notable author left her hometown at the age of fifteen to attend a night school program for low-income households. She juggled working in an electronics plant during the day while studying at night. Her literary debut was in 1985, at the age of 22, with the novella Winter’s Fable which went on to win the Munye Joongang New Author Prize. This has been followed by seven novels, six short story collections and several non-fiction books that have won a wide range of literary prizes including the Hyundae Literature Award, Hankook Ilbo Literature Prize, Manhae Literature Prize, Yi Sang Literary Award, Dong-in Literary Award and the Prix de l’inaperçu.

 Shin’s writing is a delightful example of how authors can turn dark and difficult questions about society into art that affects the reader in a profound way. When asked what her three favourite words were, she chose Closeness, Freedom and You.

What was the very first story that you ever wrote?

I grew up in a country town until I was fifteen. In my hometown was a railway, where animals and even sometimes humans were hit by trains and lost their lives. Trains ran so fast that even when engineers noticed danger ahead and stopped the train, the object had already been broken into pieces, only leaving the smell of blood in the air. That is how I first experienced death. I remember my first writing was about the shock I had felt. Since then, I kept writing in the form of a diary. Later I made up new names for actual ones and added extra description to daily events in fear of others peeping into my diary. I just wanted to keep it a secret for myself.

I left my hometown at the age of fifteen to attend a special night school program for those who could not afford high school. These schools were called “Special Industrial Classes.” Since I was too young to apply for the school, I had to submit the papers under someone else’s name and started working for an audio company. I worked during the day, but I could study at night as I had wished. Around the time when I started working and studying in Seoul, labor unions began to form in Korea. There was constant conflict between laborers who were determined to form a union and companies trying to stop them. My company was no exception to this situation. Eager to continue my study, I could not side with either of them but stood before the worktable. It was then when I began to read novels, write down what’s happening around me and transcribe books I read in my notebook.

While I was reading and writing, I could see my self-esteem restored. Then I realized that I would become a writer, and reading and writing would be my job for the rest of my life.
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